Revisiting the Penguins Trade of Jordan Staal

It’s been more than three calendar years since the Pittsburgh Penguins traded their third-line center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes. The return for the most dominant third-line center in the league was quite a haul. The Penguins received a potential replacement center in Brandon Sutter, defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin and the 8th overall pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft. That pick turned out to be Pittsburgh’s prized defensive prospect Derrick Pouliot.

What’s Happened Since Staal’s Departure

  • Since Staal’s departure the Penguins have won 130 games, lost 63 and lost 19 in overtime.
  • Since Staal’s arrival the Hurricanes have won 85 games, lost 101 and another 26 in overtime.

Now let’s look at the pieces that moved within this deal and how they have fared each season.

Jordan StaalSigned to a $60 million/10 year contract prior to the 2012-13 season

2012-13: 48 games played, 10 goals, 21 assists, 31 points, -18 skater, 53.58 CF%

2013-14: 82 games played, 15 goals, 25 assists, 40 points, +2 skater, 53.95 CF%

2014-15: 46 games played, 6 goals, 18 assists, 24 points, -6 skater, 59.69 CF%

Brandon SutterSigned to a $6.6 million/2-year contract prior to the 2014-15 season. He played under a cap hit of $2.066 million during 2012-13 and 2013-14.

2012-13: 48 games played, 11 goals, 8 assists, 19 points, +3 skater, 42.21 CF%

2013-14: 81 games played, 13 goals, 13 assists, 26 points, -9 skater, 43.82 CF%

2014-15: 80 games played, 21 goals, 12 assists, 33 points, +6 skater, 49.51 CF%

Brian Dumoulin

14 career games played, one goal, one assist, two points, +1 skater, 45.59 CF%

Derrick Pouliot

34 career games played, two goals, five assists, seven points, -11 skater, 52.55 CF%

So did the Hurricanes or the Penguins win this trade?  Well the narrative is not complete because over this past offseason Brandon Sutter and a third-round pick was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for center Nick Boninio, defensive prospect Adam Clendening and a second-round pick. A lot of Penguins fans have been excited by this move because the trading of Staal “just keeps on giving.”

However, there’s a very important part of this to consider, which team has felt more of an impact at the NHL level. After all trades in the NHL are a movement of one known commodity for another along with the upside of prospects and potential draft picks. And it’s generally accepted that the team who got the best player in the deal “won” the transaction. Staal was the best player in this deal and the Hurricanes acquired him. However, has his performance merited a $6 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season? No it has not. Sure, Staal is a possession driving monster, but that’s not what the Hurricanes acquired him to be. They need him to play like a second line center and it’s starting to look like he cannot live up to that expectation.

Now let’s take a look at Pittsburgh’s side of this trade. If you’ve read my work, you will know I am no fan of Brandon Sutter. He’s been overpaid, overrated and a detriment to the Penguins franchise for the last three seasons. There have been defenses given that he never had a talented supporting cast and other various reasons. However, when you look at the numbers, Brandon Sutter is a sub-par third line center, who is weak along the boards, lacks physicality and an average penalty killer.

A lot of people want to look at the additions of Dumoulin and Pouliot to the initial trade and consider it a win for Pittsburgh. As talented as Pouliot might be and all of the praise for Dumoulin does not mean anything. Neither are proven commodities and there is no guarantee either will thrive at the NHL level. Granted, the Penguins are about to find out if Dumoulin can play at the NHL level this season.

Then there’s a crowd that wants to further tip the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor for the acquisition of Bonino, Clendening and a second-round pick for Sutter and a third-round pick. Yes, Boninio will be an upgrade over Sutter at third-line center, and he is on a cheaper contract, but Clendening is no lock to play in the NHL and neither is the second-round pick.

Which Team Won The Staal Trade?

Now that just about every factor has been discussed, who won this trade? Frankly, it’s still unclear. On the one hand you can argue that the Penguins won the deal because of the numerous players, picks and prospects they have received from initially trading Staal. But on the other, you can say that the Hurricanes have not seen the best of Jordan Staal just yet, even if he is signed to a huge contract.

Over three years after the transaction and it’s still unclear which team won this trade. What do you think? Did the Penguins win this trade or did the Hurricanes? Leave you feedback in the comments below!